Integrating risk, response, recovery and resilience at an airport

Dr. KJ Devasia, General Manager and Head of Enterprise Risk and Corporate Resilience at Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL), details how aviation should begin to implement unique crisis management models to improve the industry’s safety.

Integrating risk, response, recovery and resilience at an airport

An airport in your neighbouring city endures an unprecedented crisis where numerous flights are disrupted, passengers get frustrated and most of the logistic support system collapses, leaving some sort of direct or indirect impression on your business. How are you going to tackle such a situation that has had a gigantic impact on your business? In such a scenario, would you be able to play the Good Samaritan role to your neighbour, or would you repair the damage befallen on you?

Assume one of the critical IT infrastructures in your airport, which was otherwise seen as the technological advancement in the region, gets disrupted with extraordinary bedlam – such as the inability to secure stand allocation and manage parking – and requires a manual turnaround, with airlines and passengers panicking and the media picking up the story quickly. Would you sit back and say that everything will be all right, it’s just an IT outage? I am sure you would not.

Perhaps, the only way to cope with such a shock is through an integrated operating model of crisis response, crisis management, risk management, business continuity and organisational resilience, rather than the compartmentalisation of these core activities for organisational or opportunistic conveniences. Traditionally, airports across the world mainly focus on aerodrome emergency management, as it is a mandatory requirement of ICAO and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation of the respective member state.

Integrated model

Globally, aviation crisis management demands modern thinking, next century practices and top management commitment. It should embrace and demonstrate a robust and holistic management system for containing and mitigating a disruptive scenario, irrespective of whether civil aviation authorities mandate it or not.

Today, airport operation is not just flight management or aviation safety – it’s now much more than that. It’s a high expectation for best commercial experience, world-class amenities at the best price, maximum customer satisfaction, minimum disruptions, faster response to contingencies, stakeholder expectations and options of faster business growth. If all of these aspirations are to be met, there is only one solution; end-to-end containment and disruption management.

One of India’s unique models of disruption management is essentially focused on convergence of risk management and resilience strategy. An organisation’s resilience and business opportunities are heavily dependent on its capability to contain the crisis to the best possible manner, in the shortest possible time, with proactive initiatives.

Mostly, the low-probability, high-impact matters sit within airports and the aviation industry. However, in a paradigm shift of probability to impact, every scenario that can cause a ripple effect or vibration in the normal operation needs to be a matter of concern at airports. The legacy approach of meeting minimum standards via emergency management needs to be redefined to ensure that the capability of airports to handle such a situation is augmented.

Aviation emergency management should be a well-knitted fabric of multi-faceted approaches and integrated management models. The integral part of an integrated approach should always include robust aerodrome emergency management, corporate business continuity management, enterprise risk management and, finally, the organisational resilience strategy as inseparable fetters of the same chain.

Futuristic approach

It is time for the global aviation industry to think deeply and establish an exclusive department for disruption management”

It is time for the global aviation industry to think deeply and establish an exclusive department for disruption management, and then to deploy enough dedicated domain socialists in every airport and airline company. Ideally, for optimum results, multi‑faceted disruption management should never be split under various business units but integrated under one roof and one leadership. Meeting the minimum requirement is always under compulsion; but setting industry standards is the next level of assurance.

Plan versus manual

An emergency plan that emphasises aircraft accidents is outdated thinking and an obsolete pattern

Another area of deliberation is the legacy planning process of aviation emergency management. When the level of risk and perception of risk changes, we should change our planning process. Moreover, when the nature and behaviour of risk becomes more unpredictable, the planning should be far more advanced with greater foresights.

Airports across the world should change the way incident management is structured and emergency plans are prepared. In fact, regulators should adopt a more inclusive and flexible approach in auditing crisis management plans. An emergency plan that emphasises aircraft accidents is outdated thinking.

Airport crisis management should move to developing vigorous crisis management manuals and multiple incident management plans. A typical crisis plan should have a Crisis Management Manual (CMM) which details the crisis management organisation, generic protocols and procedures, disruption management facilities, applications and systems and, furthermore, defines the common rules for the pan organisation incident response, apart from leading to incident response plans. It should be the ‘mother document’ of all crisis management initiates at the airport, and every stakeholder plan should be synchronised with the CMM.

The CMM should have multiple incident management plans, including an Aerodrome Emergency Plan (AEP), focusing on aviation incidents and accident response; a Disaster Management Plan (DMP), detailing response protocols for all non-aviation emergencies including natural and human induced disasters; a Corporate Resilience Plan (CRP), describing business continuity plans and standard operating procedures; and Crisis Communication and Alert Plans, for emergency alert and crisis communication. Unless the crisis management system includes the micro-planning and documenting narrated above, real-time crisis responses are going to be more unsystematic and chaotic.

A case study

Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, has no history of any major natural disaster or human-induced disaster. However, the neighbouring states and cities are highly prone to calamites. It’s not long back that a few of the major neighbouring cities and states were submersed under water and faced nature’s fury for more than a week. Airports, seaports, railways and all other surface transport systems were forced to a standstill for almost 10 days. The integrated disruption management model of Bangalore International Airport could support the impact zone, whilst the airport fought its own challenges.

How it worked

Bangalore has a well-defined crisis management manual, a decisive crisis management organisation and demonstrated incident management plans, as detailed earlier. The single-point Incident Command System ensures unified command, control, coordination and communication.

Unlike the legacy airports, India’s Bangalore International Airport has a dedicated department for corporate level planning for risk, response, recovery, resilience and centralised coordination, as well as risk and crisis communication. This not only eases the burden on the rescue and fire-fighting departments – and airside operations department – but ensures state-of-the-art crisis management facilities and robust planning.

The Bangalore model of integrated risk mitigation and resilience structure under a single leadership would, undoubtedly, yield the best result that aviation emergency management can have. Possibly, the disruption management model of Bangalore should be explored by other global airports for a typical way of handling crisis incidents with more efficiency and the maximum benefit. Airports should replicate this model, and advisory bodies and regulators should start thinking in this manner. 


Dr. KJ Devasia is General Manager and Head of Enterprise Risk and Corporate Resilience at Bangalore International Airport Ltd. He has over 20 years of domain experience and holds India’s 1st Doctorate in Disaster Management. Devasia’s core responsibilities are corporate business continuity, aerodrome emergency management, enterprise risk management, recovery of disabled aircraft operations, airport medical services, and building safety and evacuation planning.

4 responses to “Integrating risk, response, recovery and resilience at an airport”

  1. Raghu says:

    Wonderful Insight To Achieve, but the challenge Worldwide is in convincing and bringing all the professionals on to one identified platform as mentioned and address the futuristic requirement. But this should happen to collectively strengthen the process and to widen the scope of response and responsibility. Wonderful Article!

  2. Annie Vig says:

    A well written article. Totally agree that the need to Integrating risk, response, recovery and resilience at an airport.

    Great work Sr. Devasia and wishing you the very best!

  3. vijayan Govindarajan, Head Risk Management says:

    Very interesting, I am wondering how the BCP and the organisational resilience is being tested for operations of such magnitude including the DR site, recovery plan. Airports functions has multifold tentacles dependencies . The planning itself is an mammoth task. Testing the BCP readiness in its full form is a challenge and wondering how its being done?

    Would make an interesting reading to get insight of BCP planning and testing and the challenges encountered.

  4. Great article Sir. Looking forward to the roll-out of safety systems in response to Covid-19. I’m optimistic that Bangalore Airport will go down the correct and safe route, unlike Trivandrum and Mumbai, who have purchased unsafe Chinese cameras and are not following the correct principles of thermography.

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